Friday, September 19, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: The Awesomes, "Euro-Awesomes"

I feel fucking awful for the next person who has to touch that fourth phone.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

If The Tick was the Seinfeld of the superhero comedy genre (as was the hangout sitcom No Heroics during its brief run in the U.K.), then The Awesomes is the Get Smart of the genre: each week, the bumbling lead character manages to save the day despite his ineptitude, and often due to the help of his work family. But while Maxwell Smart's bumbling ways stemmed from his arrogance and ego, the physically frail Professor Dr. Jeremy Awesome's bumbling ways (as a combatant and an actual superhero, that is, not as a leader/strategist, which he's far better at doing) are due to a low self-esteem instilled by an unsupportive and distant father. If Prock had taught himself to be more assertive towards the currently absent-from-Earth and retired Mr. Awesome (Steve Higgins), who spent much of his time as a dad supporting his protégé Perfect Man (Josh Meyers) and belittling Prock (either due to Prock not being as perfect as Perfect Man or Prock not listening to his doctors' warnings to not use his secret time-freezing superpower because it gives him nosebleeds within seconds), you can damn well bet that Prock would be frequently Zack Morrising the world to move frozen people and objects around (like he did on Earth 4 during "It's a Mad Mad Mad Parallel World") instead of using that power only to talk to himself.

Manipulating time is a power anyone, including myself, would want to have, which is why Prock's inability to appreciate his ability and figure out how to make proper use of it (or how to work around the pain chronokinesis gives him) is both amusing and infuriating. So when Prock's mentor-turned-nemesis Dr. Terfenpeltz (Bobby Moynihan) points out to Prock that he's not using his time-freezing power to its fullest potential in "Euro-Awesomes," I thought to myself, "Word." The evil scientist is basically voicing the frustrations of Awesomes viewers like myself who can think of a million things to do with time-freezing if it were possible and also wish that Prock would be a little less intimidated by his own chronokinetic power, even though it does turn his nose into a Ragú ad.

I bet the Euro-Awesomemobile drives on the wrong side of the road.

Prock finally figures out how to use that power to defeat somebody: in this case, Dr. Terfenpeltz, who wants to collect superheroes' powers to conquer the world (Prock tricks Dr. Terfenpeltz by allowing him to absorb his chronokinetic power and then withholding from him the caveat that chronokinesis is painful). While it's nice to see some progress in Prock's struggles with time-freezing, it'd be wise for The Awesomes to continue having Prock learn something new about his powers every once in a while (his other power is the ability to block Dr. Malocchio's mind control) because Prock wouldn't be as interesting anymore if he became more like Perfect Man, who, by the way, has been far from perfect lately (both having to hide at Awesome Mountain from the law and being unable to do superhero things out in the streets like he used to do are driving Perfect Man crazy and causing him to talk to basketballs as if they were Wilson the volleyball from Cast Away). Much of what made The Greatest American Hero unique--as well as, frankly, more enjoyable than the character of Superman, whom a rather deluded-at-the-time DC Comics thought The Greatest American Hero was ripping off--was Ralph Hinkley's often klutzy attempts to be a hero without the supersuit instruction manual he kept losing. As we see during DVD or Hulu rewatches of that old Stephen J. Cannell show and now the storylines for both Prock and the disheveled Perfect Man in "Euro-Awesomes," a hero who's imperfect or always learning makes for better storytelling than a super-perfect man who's always got it together.

There's also some progress in Prock's love life during "Euro-Awesomes," as he realizes his current girlfriend Jaclyn Stone (Amy Poehler) is no Hotwire (Rashida Jones), and both he and Hotwire, who developed feelings for Prock during her time as a mole working for her evil dad Malocchio, finally get the guts to kiss each other. While it's good that The Awesomes doesn't have to prolong Hotwire's Metal Fella arc anymore now that everyone on the team finally knows she's alive and has been pretending to be Metal Fella because of her guilt over betraying them, I'll miss her terrible impression of a male superhero because it gave Jones more to play than just the sexy mole/love interest.

Metal Fella takes fashion advice from an '80s robot because an outdated Speak n' Spell always knows what's cool.

Even though The Awesomes is a comedy, it takes its action scenes seriously, just like the original Get Smart did (despite Max's klutziness and what has to be the whitest white-guy walk in TV history, Don Adams--or his occasional stunt double--did an awful lot of hitting and running and jumping and clinging to the tops of cars). The climactic battle where Dr. Terfenpeltz's giant mecha absorbs the powers of both the Awesomes and their European counterparts is nicely visualized and reminiscent of the Super-Skrulls from various Marvel titles and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

This is also how the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame originally ended.

And it would be an awkward phone call where Impresario turns into Sheep-Man. Shout-out to the late Judy Toll, the stand-up who came up with that great Sheep-Woman awkward post-break-up phone call joke.

Another treat in "Euro-Awesomes," which was written by DC Comics veteran and Awesomes staff writer Judd Winick, is its gags about Euro superteams like Justice League Europe and Excalibur (a British offshoot of the X-Men), which are the most Judd Winick-y part of the episode. The cleverest creation out of all the Euro counterparts Winick and the other writers came up with has to be Mademoiselle Hunchback, an icy French beauty who transforms into Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame when she Hulks out and plays hard to get in front of a smitten Impresario when she's in her more conventionally feminine form. You got to love how of all the superhuman forms she could have taken, like maybe a She-Hulk physique, a crystalline-armored body or a wolf, she prefers to change into Charles Laughton.

Her favorite stripper wouldn't be Esmeralda. It would be Danny at the end of the season 3 premiere of The Mindy Project.

Mr. Awesome let Prock down as a parent, and now Dr. Terfenpeltz, the father figure who, unlike Mr. Awesome, could have helped Prock to become the genuine superhero he'd prefer to be instead of a mere lawyer/doctor/thinker/delegator, has let him down too. "Euro-Awesomes" doesn't brood over these father figures who keep disappointing Prock, but this history of underwhelming father figures is kind of depressing when you think about it, and it's where The Awesomes gets unexpectedly sad (and maybe even tragic) in a way that Get Smart couldn't because '60s sitcoms were incapable of depth and dark humor (aside from that one time when KAOS murdered a secretary by drowning her in a phone booth, which struck me as really dark back when I was a kid discovering Get Smart reruns in the '80s). My advice to Prock?: Stop looking for a father figure. That "Ask Dad, He Knows" cigarette ad sign young George Bailey saw in It's a Wonderful Life got it half-wrong. Dad doesn't always fucking know. Maybe the newly reformed Hotwire will be that long-sought-after figure who boosts Prock's self-esteem about his abilities and won't let him down like Mr. Awesome and Dr. Terfenpeltz did. A smart guy is nothing without a 99 by his side.

No comments:

Post a Comment